Entries in British Open (118)


Newsday: Watson, 59, shares British Open lead; Woods misses cut

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- The haunting unpredictability of golf jolted the British Open on a windy afternoon that sent the world's No. 1 player out of the tournament and surprising Tom Watson and Steve Marino into a share of the halfway lead.

Tiger Woods, the overwhelming favorite -- in the betting parlors as well as in casual conversations -- missed the cut. That was more stunning than the 59-year-old Watson -- the oldest player to lead a major championship -- and the winless Marino moving into a first-place tie.

Marino, 29, a graduate of the University of Virginia who had never even seen a links course until this week, shot a 2-under-par 68 Friday at Turnberry. Watson, a five-time Open champion, was at 70. Each had a 36-hole total of 5-under 135.

A shot back at 136 was another of the near-geriatric set, 49-year-old Mark Calcavecchia. Ross Fisher, Retief Goosen, Kenichi Kuboya, Vijay Singh and first-day leader Miguel Angel Jimenez were tied for fourth at 137.

Only once in 48 previous majors as a pro -- the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot a few weeks after his father, Earl, died of cancer -- had Woods missed a cut.

Unable to control his tee shots, even though he mostly used irons and his 3-wood instead of a driver, Woods lost seven shots to par in a torturous stretch of six holes on the famed course, eight through 13.

He had bogeys at eight, nine and 12 and double bogeys at 10 and 13. Even a birdie at 17 was of little help as Woods shot a 74. Added to Thursday's 71, it left him at 145, a shot over the 144 cut line.

"I was 1 under par for seven holes,'' Woods said, attempting to mask his disappointment, "and just right there in the championship and had a few tough holes right in a row and couldn't get it back.

"I hit a couple of bad shots, but other than that, I made a double bogey at 13 from 150 yards. It was just problem after problem. I kept compounding my problems out there. I just made mistakes, and obviously, you can't make mistakes not only to make the cut but to try and win a championship. You have to play clean rounds of golf, and I didn't.''

This is the third straight major of 2009 in which Woods came in two weeks after a victory and didn't win, although in the other two - the Masters and U.S. Open at Bethpage Black - a pair of sixth-place finishes were hardly as crushing.

The double bogey at 10, a 446-yard par 4, came after a lost ball. Using a 3-wood, Woods smashed his tee ball into the deep rough.

Woods, who had been the 2-1 choice in this nation where gambling is legal - The Racing Post called the action on Woods a "feeding frenzy'' - won three previous Opens. But he never had played Turnberry, on the west coast of Scotland along the Firth of Clyde, until a practice round Sunday. He did not take to the course.

"I was playing well coming in,'' said Woods, who when asked what was next on the agenda answered, "Head home.''

The great drama now is whether Watson -- who won at Turnberry in 1977, edging Jack Nicklaus in their renowned "Duel in the Sun'' -- is headed for a miracle win.

The oldest major winner was 48-year-old Julius Boros in the 1968 PGA Championship. Greg Norman was 53 when he challenged in last year's Open at Royal Birkdale before slipping back the final day. This time Norman missed the cut at 77-75-152.

"The spirits are with me,'' Watson said. "And I've holed some long putts.''

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Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.
5:03PM For Calc, a chance to help promise be a bit less unfulfilled

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.comTURNBERRY, Scotland -- There's a painful humor in the words of Mark Calcavecchia, who likes to talk about the way he has downed pints as compared to the way he has holed putts.

"I'm working on St. Mungo this week," he cracked about a lager brewed in Glasgow. "It's pretty good stuff."

So too is Calcavecchia, a bit overweight, a bit unappreciated. He's good stuff. He should have been better.

He definitely doesn't take himself seriously but deep down knows how successful he could have been if indeed he had done just that a little more often.

It isn't as if the career has been a bust. There is that major championship, a British Open at Troon, about 20 miles and exactly 20 years from the testy one now going on at Turnberry. Yet Calc, as he's always called, when requested to look back, does it with more than a twinge of regret.

Calcavecchia shot a 1-under 69 Friday in the second round of the 138th Open, giving him a 36-hole total of 4-under 136, one shot behind co-leaders Steve Marino and Tom Watson. And so Calc faced the unavoidable questions of whether he could win and whether during his 27 years on tour he should have won more.

There was a hesitant yes to the first question, because Calc's quite acceptable controlled ego wouldn't allow him anything more, and a less hesitant yes to the second.

Golf tempers a person's outlook. A botched bunker shot is never far away, even for a pro. But it doesn't change intent. Or actuality.

Some may wonder what Calc is doing up there in third of the same major in which Tiger Woods -- Calcavecchia's frequent practice-round partner -- was going to miss the cut. A more legitimate query is why Calc never placed himself up there in Hall of Fame consideration, even though he insists that sort of acknowledgment is unimportant.

Asked point blank whether he indeed could win the Open, Calc hemmed and hawed, talking of his downs and ups throughout the seasons and then agreed, "Yeah, I think I can win. If not this week, then maybe somewhere later on this year down the road."

Then came the more poignant query, one that from some people might have brought an angry growl: Does Mark Calcavecchia believe that through the years he has underachieved?

"Yeah," he said. "There's no question I should have won at least 20 tournaments." He's won 13.

"I've had, what, 27 seconds, and another 25 thirds or something. [It's 17 thirds]. I think only [Greg] Norman has more seconds. I probably gave 10 of those away, and the rest I made good rallies to finish second.

"But I could have won a Masters. Sandy Lyle [in 1988] hit the shot of his life out a fairway bunker, but who knows, maybe I wouldn't have won this tournament the next year. But I would have thought I would have won a Masters at some point, and that's clearly not going to happen. But that's OK."

A fascinating leaderboard halfway through the Open: Marino, 29, who not only never had won on tour but never had played a links course or, obviously, the Open, until this week; 59-year-old Tom Watson; and 49-year-old Mark Calcavecchia.

"I watched TV this morning," said Calc, who had an 11:41 a.m. British time start, "so I kind of knew what some of the holes were playing like on the front nine. And I saw the wind -- there was no wind [Thursday] -- was going in the opposite direction it had been on Tuesday."

After a quiet, almost embracing opening round 24 hours earlier, when the air was still, the sun shining and 50 players broke par, Friday came up wet and wild, genuine British Open weather.

"At any rate, I knew the front nine was going to play hard," said Calc, confirming many of the opening holes would be into the teeth of the north wind. "I saw the scores, and I just wanted to stay away from big numbers, which a lot of guys were making out there, doubles, triples and quads and whatever. A few bogeys here and there weren't going to kill me."

He did bogey the second and fifth holes, which parallel the coastline of the Firth of Clyde, but then he birdied seven, 10, 12 and 14, stumbling only with a bogey on the 206-yard par-3 15th.

"When we turned around on the back nine, I thought I could probably shoot a decent score," said Calc, cognizant Turnberry, as so many links courses, goes out in one direction and then turns toward home, with a diversion or two. "I'm real happy with the way things have gone. I've been getting some good bounces, getting lucky on occasion, which always helps."

Some of the younger American players described Calcavecchia as some sort of unofficial team leader because of his many years playing golf in general and the Open specifically. He sloughed it off with the expected self-deprecation.

"I would never think I'm the type of guy anybody could learn anything from, to tell the truth," Calc remarked. "I think experience is way overrated. All that means is I've hit more bad shots than all the guys that are 20 years old, and they're lingering in my brain."

Along with the good pints. "I'm allowing myself four," he smirked. "Seems to be a good, round figure."

That from a man with a good, round figure.

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© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.

Newsday: Jimenez passes Watson for British Open lead

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- He had stepped from the past, which in this land of legends and lore, kings and kilts, shouldn't have been a surprise.

Tom Watson seems as much a part of Scotland, of the British Open, as the heather in the rough and the bunkers in the fairways.

He is 59 and yesterday, when the 138th Open started at Turnberry -- where Watson won an Open 32 years ago -- he shot a 5-under-par 65 to come in a shot behind Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez. Watson shares second place with American Ben Curtis, the 2003 Open winner, and Japanese Tour regular Kenichi Kuboya.

"I think there was some spirituality out there today," Watson said. "Just the serenity of it was pretty neat."

Spirituality and fantasy merge here to create reality. It is here along the Firth of Clyde where Robert the Bruce, an eventual king of Scotland was born in the 13th Century. It is here where weathered castles and abbeys dot the countryside, telling of another age.

Over the hill in Ayr runs the River Doon and across it the Bridge of Doon, or as it's called here, the Brig o'Doon. "Brigadoon" became a Broadway musical set in a mythical Scottish town where the residents never age.

Like Tom Watson.

"Not bad for an almost 60-year-old," Watson, who reaches that number in two months, mused of his round. Not bad for anyone no matter how old. Or young.

And how's this for fantasy morphing into reality. Watson, once the dominant player of his day, mashed the dominant player of this day, Tiger Woods. Woods shot a 1-over 71. At 33, he gave Watson 26 years and six shots. Woods is seven shots out of the lead after a sloppy round.

Watson simply gave everyone a reminder greatness can still have its day. He has won the Open five times. He has won the Senior British Open three times, one of those at Turnberry.

The Open is golf on the links land, that sandy soil from which the sea receded thousands of years past, golf where balls bounce and sometimes the wind howls and the rain falls. It's the weather which gives a links course its character and difficulty, but yesterday the sun was shining and the air was still.

"She was defenseless," said Watson. Reminiscent of those beautiful days the last two rounds of the '77 Open at Turnberry when, in the so-called "Duel in the Sun," Watson shot 65-65 to edge Jack Nicklaus, who had 65-66.

Nicklaus stopped playing the British after St. Andrews in 2005, but in a sense he was at Turnberry yesterday. Jack's wife, Barbara, texted Tom on Wednesday evening wishing him luck.

"I texted her back," Watson explained, "and said, 'You know we really miss you over here.' And I really meant it. It's not the same without Jack playing in this tournament."

Open champions have exemptions now, after a new regulation, only until they are 60. Nicklaus is 69.

Watson, looking at a leader board which included former winners Mark O'Meara, age 52, and Mark Calcavecchia, 49, said knowledge of links golf, which is more on the ground than in the air, is a large part of the equation.

"We have an advantage," Watson insisted. "The older guys have an advantage. We've played under these conditions, and we kind of get a feel for it. And that feel is worth its weight in gold when you're playing."

A year ago, at Royal Birkdale, Greg Norman, then 53, made a run at the title until the final holes. (He shot 77 yesterday).

Watson wouldn't guess what lies ahead.

"Sixty-five is the way to start," he said. "Will I be able to handle the pressure? I don't know. Whether I'm in the hunt, who knows? The pressure may be too much too handle. But I've been there before."

Many, many times.

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Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.
4:27PM Woods shoots 71, odds triple in rough first day at Open

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- The money couldn't be turned over fast enough. The pounds, each of them worth $1.77, were being wagered on Tiger Woods with such eagerness that Britain's betting paper, the Racing Post, headlined it as "a feeding frenzy."

Tiger was a virtual 2-1 favorite when he stepped to the first tee Thursday to hit first shot of the 138th British Open, and nobody else, not Sergio Garcia, not Steve Stricker, not two-time defending champion Padraig Harrington, was better than 20-1.

The odds changed dramatically by the time Tiger made it to the rolling 18th green of Turnberry's enticing links. Woods not only wasn't leading the tournament, he wasn't even leading the other two players in his threesome, one of them 17-year-old Japanese prodigy Ryo Ishikawa, the other Englishman Lee Westwood.

The odds on that happening were rather large. Mr. Woods, who came in with a 1-over-par 71, which put him down below the top 60, was a 1-2 favorite to beat Ishikawa and Westwood.

Which he didn't do, both of them coming in with 2-under 68s. And which made El Tigre perhaps the most unhappy laddie on the west coast of Scotland, if not the entire country.

Tiger was his usual repetitious and non-committal self when asked exactly that happened on a day when the wind didn't blow, the rain never fell and the temperature at the real Turnberry -- this one -- might have been confused with that of the reasonable facsimile, Turnberry in Florida.

You not only could see the sun, you could see Ailsa Craig, that mammoth rock off 10 miles into the Firth of Clyde, and not even think about the local axiom: "If ye can't see Ailsa Craig, it's raining; if ye can see Ailsa Craig, it's going to rain."

It figuratively rained on Tiger's out-of-step parade. He had four bogeys, of which one actually was quite impressive.

Woods hit his approach on the 455-yard par-4 16th, named "Wee Burn," into the burn, or stream, which doesn't seem so "wee." After a penalty drop, he chipped close and one-putted. Otherwise he would have had a double bogey.

Tiger's post-round analysis consisted of a not-surprising litany, words we have heard more than once at majors since Woods returned from the left knee ACL surgery that kept him out from June 2008 to February 2009.

"Well," he said, "I certainly made a few mistakes out there. Realistically, I probably should have shot about 1 or 2 under par. But I made a few mistakes, and consequently I'm at 1 over."

Then he pointed out he would be going to the driving range to correct those mistakes.

There's a pattern here, and one Tiger needs to break. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March two weeks before the Masters and finished sixth at Augusta. He won the Memorial two weeks before the U.S. Open and finished sixth at Bethpage. Two weeks before this Open Championship, he won the AT&T in Washington.

"On the range," Woods said of his warmup, "my misses were to the right. And I tried not to miss it to the right on 3. I didn't do that. Consequently I hit it left."

After the shot, he took a swipe at the teeing ground and mumbled something under his breath. By round's end, he had tossed away his clubs a few times. He expected more of himself. So did everyone, especially the guys making the odds.

"The misses I had were the same shots I was hitting on the range," Woods said. "So I need to go to work on that and get it squared away."

With 54 holes remaining, Woods isn't exactly finished, even if the bookmakers revised the numbers upward, placing him at 6-1. You only wish waiters over here could serve half as quickly as the odds are posted.

Before 2005, Tiger had not finished first in a major when he didn't shoot par or better the first round, but that stat has become irrelevant, sort of like those six-foot deep bunkers at Turnberry without any breeze to knock down shots.

Woods now has three major titles when he began over par, the '05 Masters and the last two of his total 14, the '07 PGA and the '08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the one he took on a leg and half and a lot of courage.

The other day, after a practice round, Tiger said Turnberry is a course where "you can't fake it." There was no faking the first round of the 2009 Open, just enough bad shots to change the odds -- if not Tiger's continued place as the favorite.

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© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.

RealClearSports: Tiger Takes on Turnberry

By Art Spander

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- It is a land of history and mystery, of kings and kilts, of whins -- the tall grass -- and whisky. A land where remnants of 700-year-old abbeys stand against time and the words of poet Bobby Burns carry in the wind.

It is the land where golf began, on the sandy soil next to the sea called links, and the land where the game once more returns with the oldest of championships, the British Open, being played for the 138th time.

This is Turnberry, hard by the Firth of Clyde, some 40 miles south of Glasgow, a course twice, during World War I and World War II, turned into a base for the Royal Air Force and now has again been turned into a test for the game's best players.

Along the road is Croy Brae, or The Electric Brae, where because of an optical illusion up looks down and down looks up. On the edge of a course is a lighthouse, built on the alleged birth site of Robert the Bruce, who led the Scots against the English in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

The River Doon flows in Ayr, the city some 18 miles north, and over it, near Burns' heritage museum, crosses the Bridge over the Doon, or Brig O'Doon.

The pros can cross that bridge when they come to it. Now the idea is to get past the bunkers, the huge pits five or six feet deep, and the long rough when play in the Open begins Thursday on Turnberry's Ailsa course..

"Just a fabulous golf course,'' said Tiger Woods. He is a three-time British Open winner, but like so many of the golfers in their early 30s, or younger, never had played even a practice round at Turnberry until this week.

Three Opens have been held here: 1977, won by Tom Watson; 1986, won by Greg Norman; and 1994, won by Nick Price. But 15 years is a long time. Fifteen years ago Tiger was 18 and one of his playing partners for the first two rounds, Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, was 2 years old.

So, in a way, for many in the field Turnberry is uncharted territory, even though they will have noted every swale and sand trap during the previous few days.

"We haven't had the big winds yet,'' said Tiger of how difficult it is to create a playing strategy. "We'll see how the weather holds out.''

Off the coast about 10 miles is Ailsa Craig, a huge rock, an extinct volcano, home to thousands of birds. The saying here is "If ye can't see Ailsa Craig it's raining; if ye can see it, it's going to rain.'' On Tuesday, you saw it, and then you saw storms smash in from the Firth.

Turnberry was renovated the past year, reopened only a month past. Tiger, in a sense, also went through his own renovation, surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee in June 2008.

That kept him out of last year's Open, a fact to which the British media kept referring - hey, at least they didn't ask about Lindbergh flying across the Atlantic - and out of any tournament until February.

Since his return, Tiger has won three times, which he conceded was not something anyone would have predicted, but none of those wins was in a major. He tied for sixth in both the Masters and U.S. Open.

The three who took championships at Turnberry, Watson, Norman and Price -- and a fourth, Jack Nicklaus, whom Watson beat by a single shot in '77 -- all are living members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The connection was not lost on Tiger.

"You are looking at guys who were some of the best ball strikers,'' said Woods, who has been made the 7-to-4 favorite. "At this course you can understand why. You really have to hit your ball well here. And you have to drive the ball well, hit your irons well. You just can't fake it around this golf course.''

Experience helps on links courses, although because the weather is so changeable sometimes not that much. If you're hitting a driver with the wind because the ball is certain to carry a bunker, what happens when the wind reverses? Do you use a 3-wood or 3-iron and play short?

Tiger won the Open three years ago at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, and hadn't played the course until the week of the tournament. Back in 1964, Tony Lema, who had never even been on a links course, won at St. Andrews, advising, "I don't build 'em, I play 'em.''

So does Tiger, and he said his introduction to links golf, some 14 years ago when he was at Stanford, was a revelation.

"I just fell in love with being able to use the ground as a friend, as an ally,'' said Tiger of golf on the hard-packed fairways. "We don't get to do that in the States. Everything is up in the air.''

At the moment, so is the winner of the 2009 British Open. Tiger is the choice, but everyone except Robert the Bruce has a chance.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he has recently been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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© RealClearSports 2009